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In August 2011 five members of the Boundary 500 Motorcycle Group set off on what is called the European Coastal Challenge. This ride, one of many carried out by the Group was the and still is the biggest Challenge open to the Groups members.

Riders start at Calais and follow the coastline of France west, then the northern coastline of Spain, the western coastline of Portugal, rejoining the southern coastline of Spain to Gibraltar  then the Mediterranean coastline of France, down the Western Coastline to the ‘Toe’ of Italy around the southern coastline of Italy before heading back up the Eastern Coastline to Venice  then Cortina and up through the Mountain passes of Italy and Austria, before passing through the Black Forest and the B500 to Calais.

In all a journey of about eight thousand miles. This is a Diary of the event recorded by Steve.

The first photo shows the team of five at the starting point, Kirkleatham Hall at Redcar. From left to right, Ali, Paul, Steve, Mike, (Wilky) Brian.

The Diary of Wonky Donkey

So a bit of background, Brian had come up with the idea to go a bit bigger than the UK coastal marathon and came up with the idea to do the coastline of Southern Europe. When he mentioned this to Carole she said yes on condition he had at least one other rider with him (I think her idea was that two could keep each other out of trouble).

Now, it was never my intention to write a travel blog or even to write up anything. What I did intend was to keep a few notes to help my aged memory from blending days, events and locations together. Somehow, on the trip I became Master of the Rolls

So the journey was published on the forum. My first reaction was, too far and I will not get the time off work and even if I did H would never go for it.

The basic idea was to travel over to Franceby tunnel or Ferry, then leave Calaisand turn right and to then travel around the coast of France,Spain,Portugal,France, Andorra by sea, Italy then back across the Alps through AustriatoCalais. The mileage would be 7,500-8,000 miles depending on the finer points of the route and sat-navs. On most nights we intended to camp to keep costs down and we would be abroad 25 days

Some members of the Boundary 500 group said yes and at one point the expressions of interest numbered up to eleven.

Brian published the dates he intended to travel on and I entered a tentative planning stage. The first good news was from H who told me to go for it. We had just come out of a rough couple of years and she reminded me that we would go for things with a “can do” attitude and not put things off till later on.

Then, by reminding co-workers of favours owed, and making promises in return, I managed to accrue the time off from work with cover for my on call days. BMW said yes to going over service on the bike and even helped with some service costs. I was in, and it was, as Murray Walker would say, “Go, Go, Go”

As the days and weeks passed, some prospective travellers lost interest or work and other commitments caused them to withdraw, whilst others joined the merry band.

With only a short time to go, Jimbo, who had been interested from day one was forced to pull out, as his employer would not grant him all the time off he needed. It was a couple of days only but they fell in the middle of the trip

So as the day rapidly approached it looked like Brian, Paul J, Wilky, Steve and Ali.

The majority of the group had gone for BMW motorcycles well maintained and serviced and then there was Wilky. Hmm the Triumph Trophy! Now I have been brought up to be nice to ladies and old people, so let’s just say the Trophy was not in the condition that she had left the factory in. I had travelled in the company of this old lady on the Austria trip and a number of issues had been identified. I was sure that Wilky would have addressed these before setting off on the European Coastal Challenge (E.C.C.)

My bike was a BMW R1200GS Adv which I had purchased brand new in spring. This was my second Adventure GS, my third 1200GS and my fourth GS including my 1150 and fifth BMW.

The bike is known as Wonky Donkey because my daughter-in-law keeps a horse at stables in the dales and amongst these horses are a number of race horses, hunters and eventers. There is also a funny old donkey with odd ears and lumps.  But he can sort out all the sports stars and is often used to calm other flighty horses and of course his name is Wonky Donkey.

I would be taking tent, stove etc. enough clothing for the trip, some food and 75 tea bags. I also invested in some new gear for the trip. I went for wicking polo shirts for riding and evening wear (3 for £20 off EBay) and all other clothing could be hand washed and dried on the bike. I also purchased a black net bag from a company called Boilie bag. I think it was supposed to be for fishing but I intended to use it strapped to a pannier lid for washed clothes drying. Also, a new Schuberth break face helmet for temperature control and dealing with tolls and passports. The helmet was also fitted with an Auto-com headset linked into phone and Sat-Nav.

One of the best purchases I made was a drinks bladder, which was to prove invaluable for rehydration. This fitted in the back pocket of my jacket and the tube was placed so that, with the helmet open, I could drink on the move.

I also invested in a bike to bike radio, which I had previously resisted but as Brian, Paul and Ali had radios, I was worried they would talk about me. Having the radio did not stop them talking about me but at least I could hear them talking. It also meant that the four of us could talk about Wilky without him knowing.

As the day approached, I had the bike booked in for a service and the following day it was to have newer tyres fitted. It is only when you sit down and think about 8,000 miles you have to address service intervals, oil, expected tyre life etc.

My final planning and logistics were interrupted when the Metropolitan Police    asked for help with a bit of a kerfuffle in London, all my days off were cancelled and I appeared to be London bound. I phone Alan Jeffries and explained my predicament. They then, without fuss or payment, collected the bike from my home and returned it checked, serviced and cleaned. I sorted the tyres locally, going for a set of Metzelers front and back instead of the Michelin Annakees. I like the Annakees as they have good levels of grip but in discussion with Jimbo we had identified that we would not get 7,000 miles plus out of a back one. On a standard Metzeler Tourance I should get the trip in without needing a new tyre.

The bike panniers and tank bag were packed and re packed until I eventually went for documents camera etc in the tank bag, camping stuff in the bigger pannier, eating and cooking in the other pannier and clothing in the top box. The theory being that wet camping stuff would be kept separate from clothing and, when off the bike, the removal and carriage of the tank bag (or the important bag as it became known), would mean I could leave the bike secure and not have to worry too much about crime.

Now fully loaded and fuelled, “Wonky Donkey” was a bit heavy but with a bit of planning when parking, I thought I could get away with it.

I did look on a number of Adventure motorcycle web-sites for helpful hints and tips.  Such hints as drilling the handle of your toothbrush to reduce weight or cutting tea bags in half and gluing them together with sugar and powdered milk to save space seemed brilliant. That is till H mentioned maybe losing a couple of stone in my weight could also help. The lady is not wrong, does a fat b****** really need a carbon fibre tax disc holder?

Now I had worked out a rough petrol budget working on about 45mpg and also, after speaking with Andy T, had worked out a projected cost for camping etc. Suffice to say, referring to the trip as “Once in a life time” was not wrong, it would take that long to pay for it.

Brian produced an itinerary with suggested daily destinations and mileages, the basic idea being that we would “Whack-off“ some big miles in the first few days, giving us a bit of leeway if events caused a missed day with illness or break down.  A spread sheet was published and riders opted for days when they would lead.

If you have not done a big mileage trip it can be tiring being at the front and leading all the time. I had previously played lead to Paul J and Wilky on our four day blast around theUKand thought the idea of a daily ride leader was a good one. However, as on all Boundary trips, the rider organiser/owner still has an over-view. Or was we say in the Boundary “My ride, my rules”.

Now as I am writing this, I will get my excuse in early. As a consequence of me losing my days off in the ten days before the trip it caused me to re-asses my jobs to be done. Programming the Sat Nav did not make it onto the “must do” list…….

On D Day minus one or Saturday to you lot, H had arranged for our extended family to gather at my house and wish me fair seas and Bon Voyage. On Saturday morning I went to the garage to check the pannier packing just one more time. H launched into me with a tirade of things we needed to do for the family coming and how many times can you check the panniers. OH thinks I, my beloved is getting a bit fraught at the thought of me being away, I’d best leave it. Little did I know what she had done…….

The Saturday was great with family, kids and grand kids decorating my shirt with good will messages in various colours of felt pen. The teams as they leave Kirkleatham Hall with their supporters.

D Day dawned and off to the start line I went with H following in the car. The intrepid travellers gathered and a number of well wishers attended at Kirkleatham to see us off. It was an emotional and a gesture that I will never forget.

So just to re-cap we have five bikes, five riders,  two makes of bike and  three makes of Sat Nav (some programmed with the full route, some to be switched on for the first time in a year or two) and a variety of camping gear and clothing etc dependant on gender size and budget.

Day One is straight forward enough. A1 south, M25 to Kent to stay in a travel Lodge with no time pressure on the route. A bit of a shakedown day to settle in the real journey starts tomorrow as we hit the mainland.

Hugs were exchanged and promises made to be careful each partner getting other riders to promise to “Look after him, and not let him do anything stupid”.

The Sat Nav was switched on and the mileage in the recorder was zeroed.  We set off adorned with GNAAS T-Shirts and accompanied by our guard of honour out from the hall and to the Wilton roundabout. Brian leading followed by the other, soon to be international, travellers. I moved towards the crown of the road intending to take the A174 and BCL promptly turned left for Yearby bank and Guisborough. Hmm that was a good start Stevie.

The guard of honour in the mirrors cleared the emotions and I switched on a bit of commentary to get me concentrating on riding and the road ahead. I was looking forwards to this remarkable undertaking and riding on previously unexplored roads, pitting my skills against the roads, weather and hoping that Wonky Donkey and I were up to the challenge.

As we settled in and I looked around, Jarred seemed to have fitted everything in to two panniers, Ali had the biggest panniers I had ever seen, Brian seemed to have a dead walrus strapped across the back seat but Wilky beat us all with panniers, tank bag, rucksacks and a stuffed Beaver sat on the top box?

As we progressed south, the guard dwindled as its members dropped off to explore other roads. Still with us was the 5th emergency service, Jeff. With the Sat Nav reading 77 miles travelled, the Trophy moved towards the hard shoulder and  the body language of its rider stated trouble. The beaver did not look happy either. BCL and Ali were contacted by radio and stopped at the next services as myself and Paul stopped with Wilky and the beaver. After poking, prodding and a process of elimination, it seemed like the bike had run out of fuel. Constructive feedback was offered to Wilky on his logistical preparation, but how to sort the problem, that was the puzzle. Jeff was with BCL and produced a petrol can from one of the many cupboards on the Gold Wing. He returned to us with a gallon where we could almost see the services about 1.5 miles away.  By the time he had arrived, Steve, Paul and Wilky had decided it was Brian’s fault, as if we had not gone via Yearby bank, Wilky would have made it to the services and a planned fuel stop. Oh how we chuckled that with 7923 miles still to go we were behind schedule and had suffered our first break down.

The group re-formed on the petrol station forecourt and, as with all stops we made, the bikes immediately drew attention, and now that each of the bikes was emblazoned with a sticker supplied by Curly, showing the map of Europe and our route, the map was used to explain our intentions. A Harley rider then used the map on my bike to point out some digs in Spain that he could recommend. Yeah cheers mate! We continued south and around the M25, where we worried that someone on the verge had taken a photo, as there was a flash. B***** H*** that will be nice letter to come home to.

We arrived at the digs in Ashford, Kent and having considered they were of the required standard, we decided to book them for the return journey. Now Old Duffer whinge time from me, but how can it be right that I am standing in the hotel lobby, speaking with the receptionist but I cannot book a room. Oh no, what we have to do is go on line in the said lobby and book the room on the internet.

ow, having unpacked in our room (me and Wilky), I noticed a number of small confetti like “Good Luck’s” and hearts had fallen from my toilet bag. “Nice one H” thinks I with a smile and a tear. What I did not realise was that they were everywhere, panniers, tank bag, pockets, wallet, document folder, tent, sleeping bag, passport – I really do mean everywhere. The following morning they were even found in brand new socks lent to Wilky and only found after much foot stamping and shuffling from Wilky trying to get comfortable in his boots.

Kent to Brittany

We were up bright and early (04:30). Wilky is Bungee man!! If the Trophy falls over it may bounce back up. How does he get it all on?

To the Tunnel, booking in seemed easy enough and we were held till the car drivers had boarded then on we went. As a tunnel virgin, I found the floor and lack of head room a bit challenging. The bikes are parked on their side stand and left in gear. The doors were closed and off we went. I would recommend it for anybody who does not like ferries as by the time you have stretched and chatted with other riders, the train is slowing and the doors open for you to get off on the other side of the channel.

 

Europe: We have landed! As we left the train I took the lead, as planned, and switched on the Sat Nav, having put the route towards Normandy in the night before. Now Calais is a complex myriad of junctions and tolls and poor signage not helped, as I later worked out, by my Sat Nav trying to take me back into the Tunnel to start the journey at the programmed start in Kent. As we headed towards Paris it was suggested by radio that someone with a clue should take the lead. Ali stepped up to the crease and, not for the last time, without fuss we were returned to have “The sea on our right”.

 

 

 

Quick miles  in rain and with wet tar banding across into Normandy for our first culture stop at the Airborne Museum on the Orne River and a canal inland from the D day beaches. The night before D Day a number of men of the 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Regiment had landed, by glider, in a coup de main to capture the two bridges. They had trained for two years and the operation was considered by many to be the most important of D Day or even the whole campaign to free Europe.

If the two bridges were not taken then the German tank regiments near Calais would have had an open road onto the beaches which could have spelt disaster for the troops landing there. On capturing the bridges, the Morse signal back to London was to be HAM for the river bridge and JAM for the canal bridge.

 

 

At the memorial within the grounds of the museum is the original bridge from over the canal. I left a tin of ham and jar of jam with a note of thanks to these few men and others that followed. I wondered if they had failed if my planned tour of Europe would have been possible.

We pressed on, still with intermittent heavy rain towards the pre-booked camping in Brittany

We arrived and set up on a small, compact, clean camp site with happy families and decent washing and cooking facilities.

So tents were erected, stoves lit, tea made, bottles cracked and we had finished day two. Well we actually finished it sitting in the children’s play room on small chairs in amongst the cuddly toys and crayons before we each retired to our canvas rooms.

 

End of Day 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3

 

Up at 5.20am, packed and ready to roll for 7:20am with wet tents after overnight rain back on to the dual carriageways, still “whacking off” the miles.  We settled into trying to find a comfortable speed for the group and the bikes  at which we could make progress and also stay together, we also needed to work out the fuel stops as the Beaver needing fuel, we thought, every 100 miles. Rain in the morning then drying from lunch time onwards, which was good as, mid afternoon, the Trophy threw teddy out and decided to splutter to a halt again. This time we had no Jeff and we struggled to let BCL at the front know by radio.

So again we are sitting on a hard shoulder but this time it is on the wrong side of the road and we are on an off slip from a French motorway, the Beaver and her escorts. Paul stepped forward and I offered constructive little snippets from a distance whilst dealing with my nicotine addiction. I did offer to sort the Triumph with a lit fag but Wilky declined. Now Paul, using a Leatherman, set about Wilky’s bladder. No, No, No, I don’t mean he stabbed him! He cut the drinks tube off his camel-back and used it to siphon some fuel out of his BMW.

Once running again, we had the problem that we were on an off slip facing in the wrong direction. A little walk on the verge and a path was found across the grass through some bushes and back onto the motorway. We set off through the bushes to re-join the motorway with the intention of finding Bri and Ali. The two were found starting on their tans in the next service station. By 5pm the sun was out and the temperature was 26.5C. We left the motorways on to some good national A and D roads. Paul informed the radio listeners that he could make use of some toilet facilities. About 20 miles later he really needed the little boy’s room.

Have you ever seen someone dismount a motorcycle and walk into a shop to ask directions then re-mount the motorcycle whilst trying to keep their knees together. After obtaining directions he set off to find somewhere as we waited outside the shop.

Once back together we had a quick hour on some fast D roads towards the coast and a campsite “La Tattiou”.  An enormous campsite full of gangs of kids and noise. Tents up, showers in shifts as without saying much we decided not to leave the bikes or kit unattended. We gathered to eat and make use of the Wi-Fi. Later whilst discussing the change in the weather whilst standing outside the tents, what I first thought was fireworks developed into sheet lightning and violent thunderstorm. The site was noisy the thunder clapped and the tannoy blared asking people to be quiet!

A terrible night’s lack of sleep, the tent pegs had pulled out of the wet ground, Wilky discovered that his tent let water in but his upturned helmet held water.

 

 

 

Day 4

 

We set off with Ali leading at about 09:00am. After a quick blast on D roads, the group was riding fast on sweeping dual carriageways. Weird that yesterday, in the sunshine, we were bothered by the tar banding on the dual carriageway but today when it was hidden under standing water we went at the same speed. We had made a liberal application of “Out of sight out of mind”.

At yet another motorway stop, as I stood smoking near the bikes, a discarded Salami sandwich caught my eye. Hmm me thinks, I wonder how that would fair hidden on a bike. So the scientific experiment is, what will last the furthest distance, the salami or the bun? Now as with all good experiments, you need a participant and the danger is that the participant can influence the outcome. This is how Wilky came to do 250 miles plus and a number of border crossings and tolls totally unaware of the salami sandwich under the bungee cord on his bike. I can report to the forum that the outer half of the bun failed first due to wind resistance.

As we had not had a dry day or night and we had slept poorly, the group decision was made to find a hotel. Ali used her knowledge of the area to get us onto a nice little bit of coast road and, as we travelled, we looked for a Spanish hotel.

Having found one we pulled into the car park and Ali spoke with the receptionist sorting out rooms and a good deal on the cost. Beers were ordered and the tents were hung out in the garden to dry. I had a wander inside to find the bar devoid of any stock and realised that as the beers were ordered the waiter went out and, using cash we had paid with, bought drinks from a shop down the road. A manager arrived and Ali was informed the price quoted was wrong.They seemed to want us to pay more or move to a sister hotel down the road.

Now call me a cynic but I think they thought we would pay and stay. Not us! The bikes were re-packed and Ali found another spot just across the road.  We left the first hotel empty but for the staff and a cat and went to the new digs.

We were greeted by a charming old lady and shown “Hotel Casa Elena” where Ali had negotiated a stay at the same price as the ”Bates Motel” had wanted but with breakfast as well. As Ali introduced the four men to the nice landlady she inquired of Ali which one of us was her husband. When the make up of the group was explained, our hostess linked arms with Ali and took her off to sleep in the main house leaving the unwashed males  in the  hotel.

 

Find them at www.casaelenareinante.es

 

As the sun set we walked down to the beach and a recommended restaurant for some good food. Monk fish in peppers, followed by pork chop and chips.

 

Now if you have not travelled abroad with Brian, he has travelled extensively but is an Englishman his way of dealing with foreign languages. When ordering food the following methods are strictly observed:-

A- Point at what someone else is eating and speaking slowly and loudly in English add chips.

B- Point at a photo in the menu (he likes photos).

C- Ask Ali what is on the menu.

D- Last resort. Speaking in a clear, loud English voice, enter into charades of various animals. His steak, egg and chips charade is a delight to watch. There is however always the chance with his mooing, clucking and wing flapping that some one calls him a doctor.

The night progressed with the only hic-cup being the ex-pat waiter not understanding that I do not drink and insisting on bringing me a lager with every round. I am sorry to say that I eventually told him in no uncertain terms.  I was tired and he got short shrift. This was the only occasion on the trip that someone had a problem with a non-drinker.

Day 5

Up at 6:40am, after sharing a room with Wilky. The ear plugs had worked and I had managed a decent night’s sleep. Bike was telling me the average speed was 59.6mph and fuel economy was 46.7mpg. PJ seems to be getting better economy from his – wonder if the Salami hidden in his luggage will bring the fuel economy down. My turn as ride leader today and off we go on the route I had planned. We are then diverted for a “must do La Coruna” by Bri.

Bri lead us into Coruna but we failed to find the sea front so we stopped for coffee and  a bun in a café on the one way system then headed down and off for Portugal. Lots of Toll roads today. It is still strange to pay for using the road.

 

So we had fallen into a routine at the tolls. One bike goes in and informs the others of the cost as the group wait in the queue. Some of the group pay by bank card, some pay with cash but all voice our displeasure at paying. Our oath of Thieving B******* was used a lot. So we are just getting used to the change in the clocks from the UK to Spain as we enter Portugal to change again but we are only in Portugal a day so should we bother.

 

Now Portugal has spent a load of EU money on an electric toll system which, as we are English, we just ignored obviously, feeling smug and waving at the cameras as we covered some miles. We had all had enough of service station food and we turned off looking for a quaint little road side Taverna. We found one in the village of Tui which some of us thought was in Portugal and some of us thought was in Spain.

Now there was a bar and food and one person serving who took and made each identical food order individually. We sat outside in the sun watching the locals watch us. My radio is now not working and a quick look and check of the connections has not sorted it. PJ will look at it tonight at the camp site. Ali has used her extensive language skills and discovered that toll avoidance can lead to massive fines so we set off a little wary and not as smug at the thought of a big fine.

Having caught up on the mileage we make Fiquria da Foz and the bike says we have done 2,000 miles since leaving home. It has been cloudy with some drizzle but feeling good as we have done more miles than some riders do in a year. Tents up, washing lines out and clothing washed, kit spread out to dry next to the Atlantic.  Panniers emptied and still finding hearts and Good luck confetti. I have dropped hearts or confetti at every toll booth and petrol forecourt. As PJ stated “That girl done you good” But yahoo! I’ve found, floating in the bottom of the expensive BMW panniers, my Grossglockner ticket from June. Nice, that gets me a half price trip up the Grossy later in the trip.

Only BMW can make metal panniers that, in the Alps, pulled a vacuum so they would not open but over the last few days have leaked water in to slosh around the bottom. The Triumph waterproof suit I bought second hand off eBay seems good and the Altberg boots, despite being ten years old, are still “the business”. I have never found fully waterproof motorcycle kit. But this combination is proving okay

Avg Speed now 55.6mph and Fuel 45.6mpg so far. PJ has had a go at the radio with a Leatherman and he has sorted out my dubious wiring, the head phones and taken the sealed battery apart. There is a broken wire in the resistor coils and his first attempt at sorting it has failed unfortunately.

Eating in the camp site restaurant and chatting with the locals, they can not understand why big bike owners are camping. It turns out that  German bikes have such a high import tax that only the rich have them and the rich do not camp. We are going to try and Sat Nav off E toll roads tomorrow. My budget is going to be tight and I and others do not want a bill arriving at home, it seems the Portuguese toll system can link registration numbers to passport details from the border crossings.

End of Day 5

Day 6.

Rain and wind again overnight so we have not had a dry day yet. Our intended destination today is Huelva and we are on the road for 9:20am. A and N roads towards Lisbon with some “No Tolls” navigation by PJ and Brian. Unfortunately this caused us to miss the new bridge over the bay in Lisbon, which was a shame as just after, we got caught for an old style toll booth for 5.8 Euro with a smile. At least at the manned toll booths you have some interaction. So far we have not had a toll stop that all 5 of us have got through without a problem.

Lunch today was a truck stop in a village surrounded by 44 ton artics full of fruit and tomatoes. The quality of the food was excellent but it was slightly concerning to note that all the wagon drivers had a large carafe of wine with their meal.

After lunch we seem to have about 10 miles of fruit and vegetable canning factories. Then onto a brilliant road the N230 to Cape Sagres, the most westerly point in Europe. I like these open roads as the group can stretch its legs but we all remain in sight then re-group together as we approach the castle. We park up and take in the views with some stunning drops off the cliffs down to the waves and a little beach in a cove. There are lots of tourists in hire cars who seem to be driving here to tick the box. So have we, I suppose but we have a lot more boxes to tick. In the villages near the cape it is Hippy Surf city.  We do not seem to blend in to the surroundings on the bikes. A camp site is found just off the cape and tents set up. The ground is stone and gravel and the tents pegs keep pulling out.  Eventually the only way I can get the tent up is to tie it between a tree and the GS. It seems that I have just turned a very expensive motorcycle into a tent peg.

I get the stove out and quickly get a brew on and then with mug of tea in hand we have a bit of a hairy, or should that be baldy, biker moment which leads to me dining on savoury rice, Chorizo sausage and tomatoes like plums.

Washed clothing and wet stuff out on the washing line again. After the house work is done I sit watching the sun go down and phone home. It is weird being in Portugal speaking to H in England whilst on Spanish time. Best not to think about it too much it makes my head hurt.

PJ sets about the radio and amazingly, using a pen knife, a lighter and a tent peg he manages to re-solder a failed joint on a thin wire coil. I have a working radio again. We have acquired a large picnic table and sit having a head torch conversation until the 99 year old 8 stone security man suggests we are quiet.

Day 7 Cape Sagres to Gibraltar and beyond

Up and at ‘em, I’m looking forward to today. I really want to ride onto the Rock of Gibraltar but we have heard some scare stories about getting back off when riding on UK registered bikes with Spanish immigration. Plus the Trophy does not like slow moving traffic as the beaver gets a bit hot and steamy. A hot dry day with a high temperature of 37.5 c. as we approach the rock the views convince us to go for it. After a slight detour into a car park we are across the headland. Now as you leave Spain you come to what looks like a traffic light controlled cross roads as you go through on green and glance to the side you realise you are crossing the main airport runway. After this you are into the old town still driving on the wrong side but with UK road signs and traffic lights. Turn right at the roundabout and keep the sea on the right to go round the edge managing to lose Ali in the chaotic traffic, through some very narrow streets – think the shambles in York below Saltburn cliffs. We then park near the Royal Navy fitness centre (Beach Club). Photographs are taken with Africa just across the straight. We have ridden as far as you can and still be in Europe. Smiles all round and we are off again re-grouped and ready to deal with the Spanish. I do not know if it is the proximity to the Royal Navy but we have girded our loins and set sail to deal with the Spanish threat.

To get off we need to queue but notice the locals and Spanish registered mopeds do not. Wilky goes first pulling out and queue jumping with the rest. It is all a bit tense with Spanish registered cars trying to block us and the slightest hesitation has mopeds mobbing you and pushing in. The basic rule is, do not stop or you will not find a gap to get re-started.

As we approach the Spanish side of the border crossing a nice lady with a gun just smiles and waves us through.

Onto the Spanish mainland and along the coast of tourist sites such as Ben a Modena, Torromalinos and into Fuingerolla, but we cannot find a hotel and the camp sites look to be filled with criminals and time share touts. As we travel around the hot one way system Ali spies a 2 star hotel on the other side of a dual carriageway. We U-turn and pull up outside and alongside on double red lines. The hotel is called the “Star of the Sea” I approach the front door, it is locked and a tall dark gentleman dressed like a Middlesbrough door man enquires in broken English what I want. I reply sarcastically “That we want rooms”. He raises an eyebrow and states “You want rooms”? Yes, I reply thinking why else would we be stopping and me going in? He unlocks the front door with a key and shows me into reception. It is a funny looking reception devoid of any pamphlets or advertisements for water parks.

I go into my spiel with the male receptionist “Charity ride blah, blah, raising money for an air ambulance, blah, blah. We want cheap clean rooms no, breakfast at your best price blah, blah” He chats in what I think is Turkish with a man in the back room and we are then joined by the back room man.

The back room man says. “We have rooms available and you are welcome to stay, however the rooms will prove expensive as we hire them out by the hour and they come with extras”

Numpty Steve innocently says “By the hour, and what sort of extras?”

The back room man replies “The sort you get in a brothel, as this is a brothel”

I laugh out loud make excuses and leave. The gang have now turned around and are line a stern in the mouth of the junction. I can see they are all tired and hoping that I am going to give the thumbs up so we can stop for the day. I plug into the comms and explain “they have rooms but they are expensive and come with extras that would be difficult to explain on the credit card bill”. This causes puzzled looks and as I mount the donkey, I state in a calm voice and trying not to laugh again “It’s a brothel”. The radio waves are covered with giggles and sniggers and we debate what extras could be offered to Ali. As we move off Wilky stalls and almost drops the Triumph. We set off again, the heat and fatigue temporarily forgotten as the banter bounces across the radio.

Eventually after lots of stops, starts, sweating and fraying of tempers, we are in to a Novotel. It is very nice but budget denting. The day is rounded off by drinks by the pool with PJ, Wilky and Brian while Ali phones/Skype’s/texts etc. home.

The tensions ease and we are soon laughing about the day and the mopeds. We have had some fun today on the fast dual carriageways and discovered a new game called Buzz the Beaver. Now before I am moderated let me explain that Wilky finds it difficult to concentrate on the long boring roads in the high temperatures, so to keep him switched on one of us will stay close but keep swapping our position so that he does not know where we are. Close off side, back near side, alongside and in front. Hence Buzz the Beaver. It takes some concentration, so we swap B.B D between us every half hour or so.

The hot bike and poor helmet ventilation are causing Wilky to flag so we are having a break in the heat every 70 miles or so which works out at about an hour.

I am draining a 2 Lt camel back in two hours. Getting bored with water so trying varying fruit juices and ice in it. I accept now that the strawberry mivvy was a mistake. We are all learning not to leave things unattended. I went blue in the face earlier trying to get water from the camel back till I discovered PJ’S knotting skills on the drinks tube and my Good luck Nurse air freshener has biro drawn glasses and a beard. But Hey Ho I spent 70 miles watching a chewy sweet melt off PJ’S exhaust as he tried to work out what the burning smell was from his bike.

I have also worked out Paul’s rear view mirror routine. If you time it right you can be 110m back when he checks behind and the next time he looks sat on his shoulder in touching distance Boy does he jump. You need to be in the right gear to accelerate out of water pistol range.  Brian has gone all enhanced rider on us and named us the terrible twins. But by now we all have a trust in each others’ riding ability so we can carve up a dual carriageway in close formation or single file in stationary traffic and be through before the cars know we are there.

We are sat in a town we have ridden to that most people fly to on a holiday. This is our 3rd European main land country in seven days. We are all starting to benefit from the hours in the saddle. I know what Donkey likes and can put him exactly where I want. In town my slow speed control is at the point I can almost go stationary without my feet down. Riding in close formation today with Paul was good fun. Carving up the traffic and making progress, lots of waves from ex-pats. The bikes have taken on a well used patina and so have the riders, there is a don’t mess with us image and smell about us and the bikes. To the nice gent who  jumped in the hotel lift with the three of us as we  travelled up from the garage to our rooms, I am sorry about you having to hold your breath for 4 floors.  We needed a shower. But if you think we were bad you should smell the Salami on Paul’s bike.

So as we start week two on D Day+8 we are in a hotel near Malaga.  Our target is to try and get 150 miles beyond Benidorm. We also want to try and get down onto the front at Benidorm for a photo opportunity and an all day full English breakfast. We make progress through the Costa’s the town names are like reading pages 12-22 in the Thomas Cook Brochure. We are just inland looking down to the sea, travelling on a series of dual carriageways all of which require payment of a toll. There are some fast sweeping bends as we head for Benidorm and we are carving through coaches and taxis.

 

I lead us down into Benidorm which has been visible on the horizon for some time.

 

As we stop at a red light PJ calls on the radio “Are we in Benidorm yet?” Before I have chance to answer, crossing the road in front of us is a lady straight off Jeremy Kyle, the wrong side of 30 stone and wearing less clothes than is decent, sat on a mobility scooter carrying a Lidl carrier bag of lager.  “Yes I think we are “, is my reply.

 

I have been once before and try to navigate us down to the front on that distant memory of that trip and where I had parked the hire car. As I turn off the road of tat (flashing dolphin ashtray in a lurid blue) and fake football shirt shops towards the front, the group fail to follow. Cowards, just because I have turned left and through a no entry sign with a police car parked next to it.

 

I then loop the block on the one way street (the wrong way) and stop and ask the police officers where we can park near the front. They did not seem bothered with my minor transgression and stated we could park on the foot path as long as we did not leave the bikes for too long.

 

Two minutes later we are parked next to the beach looking at a menu on the wall which requires no reading skills other than to read the number next to the photograph. Bri seems relaxed and happy (every thing comes with chips).

 

The bikes get lots of photographs and comments which considering the other sights available to view is something. I overhear one wife berating a hubby. ““look, they have ridden all the way from England, you never go anywhere on your bike” Which considering they are both sat astride mobility scooters is somewhat surprising but then everybody seems to be on mobility scooters.

 

A couple of kids appear on mobility scooters. They are stood up, as they cannot reach the handlebars from the seat. They are wearing trunks and have tans and are racing around the mini roundabout and getting the scooters onto 2 wheels.

 

We have a good crack and the mood is good and happy. After eating we set off to leave and comment that we are all sick of paying tolls but seem to find them all the time.

 

PJ takes the lead and says he has clicked on the “No Tolls” option on his Sat Nav. We set off and turn back towards Gibraltar. After much chuntering on the radio, the ride leader gets all forceful and PJ keeps the lead ”Radio Silence” is observed . We then turn right away from the coast. We are on what has become known as ”The Secret Road”. I know Brian has put some videos on the forum. What the videos do not show is the country side, the sweet smells and the rural nature of the towns so close to the beer and fried food sprawl of the coast.

 

PJ and myself are exploring the handling of a pair of BMW GS’S lets just say after  70 miles of these C and V class roads between us, we know the following:–. Traction control works and can be quite useful, ABS works and is very useful and how far over you need too lean to grind the centre stand on a GS.

I cannot stop grinning – it is the best hour ever spent on this bike, I have been shouting and whooping in my helmet. As we stop at a junction to let the others catch up I am buzzing and bouncing. I shout at PJ to get off and take his helmet off as Bri, Ali and Wilky arrive. We are sat chatting trying to portray an air of having been there ages. The road has been stunning with short second gear straights and a full variety of bends from hair pins to sweepers.

 

We have a destination in the Sat Nav which is taking us to a campsite. The roads continue in the same vein as the sun drops on the CV770 which leads to CV720. This is what it is all about, whooping as we ride, I can see Paul’s grin in the mirror. We stop at a camp site La Vall, Alcala de la Javada la Vall d’alcala

When chatting with the owner we discover she has a converted barn we could use but it has not been cleaned. We look at each other and smell each other. “we will take the barn”. Not sure we are any closer to Andorra than when we left Benidorm but that was the best bike road yet.

I have ridden 3174 miles the average speed is down to 49.4 and mpg is down to 45.5

 

Clean showers and toilets the token for the hot water out lasts the electric light, which is on a timer so the shower is finished in the dark as the lights have gone out. The camp site is a bit strange with what looks like fruit pickers living in small caravans with an outside room fabricated from dust sheets and 3 ply panels, dogs and kids roaming the site but every caravan has a large TV stuck to the side of it as the families prepare an evening meal in the light of a plasma telly in the outside room. I return from the shower to discover my bike has turned into a clothes horse with drying clothing adorning all protruding bits. None of which are mine I might add.

I discover that whilst PJ had been standing next to my bike, Ali had enquired if she could hang some clothes out on it. PJ, ever the gentleman, had replied that this was no problem.

After we have all refreshed we walk into the village for a drink. The one pub in the village has a large paved yard to the front and the tables are full of local kids sharing soft drinks. The barman struggles with our round and as he brings the drinks in dribs and drabs we have finished the round as he delivers the last drink to me so we double up and order two of everything in the next round.

As if they had received a signal unheard by the over 30’s the table of young ones clears en masse and we are left with the place to ourselves.

We are later joined by the older generation of the village who chat and sit around the table previously occupied by the younger generation, whilst we run the barman ragged.

A good day of contrasts, with the GS out of its natural habitat on the front in Benidorm, then Wonky Donkey chasing PJ on roads  (Use 720 HD Setting_which would have snapped a sports bike in two. All the 2nd gear stuff seems to have affected the mpg somewhat. The photo of the line of bikes at the camp site has not captured the ticking cooling engines and the smell of hot engine oil.

 

End of Day 8.

 

Day 9

Somewhere closer to Benidorm than to Andorra

Away for 7:20am and C roads down to pick up the Barcelona Road similar to the secret road but somehow just not quite as good or maybe it is the rider not the roads. Then onto the coast road towards Barcelona, we have some miles to cover so we “make progress” sat on the shoulder of the LT with all HID lights on cars are jumping out of the way of the riders in High Viz before they can work out we are not Guardia Civil we are gone.

At 12ish PJ calls up to say the beaver has divided off into a service station and they are going to eat. Myself and Brian stop at the next services and eat Al Fresco in the shade of a tree, hills to one side and the Mediterranean to the other, signs for Barcelona next to the bike.

We crack on towards Andorra and stop in Tolla about 100km from Andorra at a road side Taverna. The male owner struggles with the concept of Wilky ordering a starter as a main course. “Grande, Grande “ seems to work, that is until he turns up with two starters served one after the other.

 

Now Ali let slip earlier in the trip that her bike is known as Gus. So after lunch it would appear Gus fancied a longer siesta and on starting blew a bulb.  PJ and Ali sorted it.

 

We have decided that all the bikes are all reading differing air temperatures so Gus has been nominated as group official temperature prefect, 32.0c is the reading as we start to climb up towards the mountains. The Lardy LT goes off and  gives a local a demonstration in Enhanced Riding then we re-group to drop into Andorra. I stock up on fags in one of the many duty free shops we have a quick hour looking in the shops then it is off into France.

But first, customs. They never stop bikes do they?   Myself and the beaver are waved in to the examination area. This could be expensive on import duty. “play it cool Trig, play It cool”. I can see PJ’s shoulders rocking as he rides past laughing he knows how many fags a I have. The French guard with the big gun and the 70’s porn star moustache approaches. Looks, gives a Gallic shrug and I am told to Vamoose!!! . Visor down, check over left shoulder, 1st gear and away. ……2nd gear  ……………breathe out …………

Welcome to France. The beaver has the lead as we are on route to digs he has arranged just outside Andorra. Hmmmm, a few hours later of fast riding we are in the right town but the post code seems to give differing locations on each sat nav. A quick phone call and our host for the evening arrives to guide us in.

Masalvy 66310 Ille sur Tet.  You know those living abroad TV programmes when some one turns a pile of bricks into that idyllic farm with pool and olive groves, well this is it.  Bob and Lyn are living the dream, and just for one evening they have invited us to share it. We also have an upgrade from sharing a large tent to using the flat. Showered, washed and down onto the patio. Bob has the BBQ going a storm, the crickets are chirping and the vino and fanta is flowing. I am sat there feeling a bit home sick as H would love it here and they have a dog which again makes think of home as I play fetch.

Contact for the digs at    lindilu@hotmail.fr  

Early nights are not something we are good at on this trip each day seems to be re-lived on the evening with de-briefing and jesting. Each day someone seems to do something that has us laughing or the bend king of one day rides like a lemon the next.

 

It is funny to watch the local boy racers who have no problem with the foreign boys if we fly past but all seem to take exception to Ali and Gus but the girl can ride and will not give ground. It is good to watch the testosterone wilt as she sticks with them and then when the moment is right blows them away.

Day 10. Ille sur Tet to Monaco. 

Another one of those dream locations I have had for me and the bike from a young age – Monaco, Monte Carlo. When I was mopeding to ICI on a cold morning in winter the dream was to ride into Monaco and do the circuit. Wilky and the beaver as guides are going to make that dream come true today.

 

We stop off near Bezier in a town called Adge. We find a café and have a massive English breakfast with a decent cup of tea for 6.5 euro. It is my intention to ride across a spit of land with the med on one side and the salt lakes on the other. I rode across it with H a few years ago and it was quite surreal, a bit like the causeway to Lindisfarne but the sea warmer, cleaner and the sun shining.

 

As we approach, Ali discovers that voice activated throat mikes are not the best if you speak your thoughts out loud. The boys discover that a male jogger is “Eye candy”.

As we get to the headland leading to the spit we get diverted off the spit as it is now the domain of the fit and reserved for joggers and cyclists with no vehicle access. Adge is the cheaper end of the spit with caravan sites and camping. At the other end of the spit is Sete with very expensive villas with motor cruiser parking. It also has very rich people who do not need to look before crossing the road and we need to switch on and pick through the crowds walking in the road. We travel around the coast on toll roads in 32c of heat and we are all flagging a bit in the heat. We still need to find the balance between back roads and toll roads but we have miles to cover. I still worry that we may be missing that little gem of a village as we travel on another E.U funded bypass. But not around here not sure I can afford a wee

As Wilky leads us down into Monaco the number of mopeds and scooters increase. Lots of Burgmans and 200-250 scooters but also lots of Exotic sports cars. We debate on the radio the advantages of the scooter. BCL pronounces that “Scooters can never be cool”. As I sit behind the scooter riding super model in the silk pants with hair to her waist and Jimmy Choo shoes I could never afford and look to the right to see PJ readjusting his boxers through his bike pants. I have to disagree. “Oh I am not so sure from where I am sat Bri”

The trip down towards the front is a constant battle we get split and split again the Trophy is getting hot and steamy and the riding is intense. If you give an inch you get mugged.
Now my GS has electrically adjusted suspension with differing comfort settings and ride heights. But we decide that what it needs is “Scooter Mode”.

In Scooter mode, the tatty helmet becomes a thing of design excellence, the Altbergs become expensive deck shoes (no socks of course) and the smelly arm pit stained bike jacket becomes a crisp laundered blazer.
So we are on the front, all the names of the bends flow together and I can hear a breathless Murray Walker in my head, “down 2 gears and pin it to the red line as I enter the tunnel”. I am going past James Hunt on the inside and lining up Senna for an out braking overtake at the swimming pool.

Right sod this the scooters are  intruding into my dream I go on the offensive  not moving, leaning on them if you want this bit of road you have to move me. Amazingly the cars notice first those chunky metal panniers would make a mess of that  expensive paint job mate. Elbows out revs up and I shall not move and PJ has caught on. “Switching to scooter mode” we start to regain ground and play them at their own game.

Once they twig you are not moving they give ground, we stick in 1st gear and play them at their own game. It then becomes our own little domination game. I am forced out as PJ will not let me in as he goes for a gap. PJ discovers he can maintain his speed as he rides through an overhanging flowering shrub as we climb from the front he chases me down for revenge. We get a look of disdain from the driver of a convertible Bentley outside the Barclays “Wealth Centre” (bank). I am on his off side, PJ on his near side and we hold a conversation over him and his car ignoring him totally. As the Trophy pulls up alongside the Bentley the tax exile and he hears the noise from the engine and  the steam erupts from the  boiling radiator I think he would gladly swap the Bentley for something  with more blast protection qualities.

This place is just surreal, the bars on the front have staff who park your car, many of which look like cat walk models both male and female darling….. we cannot afford to stop and eat or drink we content ourselves with a couple of laps then we leave and climb out towards Italy. As we get up onto the headland the Trophy need a cooling break and the LT has suffered a bit with all the stop start. My GS sounds a little cam chain rattley so I do a top up on oil. As I stand in the gated driveway of a house  that would require  6 numbers on the euro millions to buy, I look back down into the harbour for one last   memory  shot.

We turn towards Italy and the standard of living after we cross the border plunges. I am guessing that this is where the staff from Monte Carlo live. We stop at a camp site in Vale Criossia. PJ immediately sets about the Trophy with the Leatherman tool and manages to rig up a switch (sacrificed by his own BMW) for Wilky to operate the fan when things get warm and tough.

www.campingvallecrosia.com

The site is right on the front and the pitches are divided by panel fences we get split up. As Gus pulls in he is mobbed by a load of German bikers. That is until they see the Beaver. Without fail all are impressed that the old girl is so far from home.

We enter into a game off “How far?“ 3 card brag with the Germans but they fold when they hear our daily mileage. They have travelled “over 150 miles” today. They discover we can p*** a lot further up the wall than them and retreat.

 

The tent is tied to a fence and the bike to keep it up, the ground is hard packed fine soil and I cannot get any combination of tents pegs to stay in the ground. I am hot, it is dusty, I need a shower. We use the showers in shifts. I tend to take first guard duties and stagger duties whilst I have a ciggy. When the others return I can go for my shower then.

I am cooking tonight and so are Bri and PJ so we go on bike guarding duty as  Wilky and Ali walk the front looking for somewhere to eat. I am singing Dean Martin love songs as I cook, occasionally interrupted with a little ditty referring to world cups and world wars for the benefit of Zee Germans.

Day11 Vale crosier to 250+ miles.

We chatted last night about the ride being destination driven so today we have a target mileage distance if we do the miles, good if not, at 5;30pm we will switch on the find camp site software in PJ’s sat Nav and find some digs.

The day does not start well as the Beaver snaps its top box key. Jarred will fix it and produces the Leatherman and access is gained to the pannier we are on the road for 8:50am.

Bl**dy h***. The riding is intense and demands 100% concentration for every second. I will try to explain. The roads are a mix of dual carriageway and 3 lane motorways. Lane 1 is all 44 ton trucks and you may get a convoy of them climbing up into the hills travelling at 20mph behind a slow overloaded one. As HGV’s are restricted from leaving lane 1 you can get a line of them bumper to bumper. This forces the slow happy at 50mph car drivers into lane 2. Now add to this mix some seriously quick cars usually a large Mercedes, now the road itself will be a newly constructed road which bypasses all the small market towns to do this it will hug the valley or cliff side but if the geography throws in a protruding bit of hill they will add in a tunnel.

 

Now also add in a clapped out Fiat Punto or Peugeot 206 getting thrashed so hard you can hear the engine valves bouncing through your helmet and ear plugs.

So you line up the bend ahead which starts as you enter a dark tunnel the apex of the bend is on a high bridge in bright sun light and the exit of the bend in another tunnel all this whilst you are being harried by the clapped out Punto which is sat a foot of your rear wheel with its off side indicator flashing (this seems to signify membership of the lane 3 owners club).

With the Punto’s off side indicator and his headlights flashing he has now moved towards the central crash barrier and is trying to squeeze past, even though he can see other bikes and cars directly in front of you. If you even hint at moving towards the near side he will try to squeeze past. Oh and did I mention there is no fence on the bridge just Armco barrier.

We come up with a system where the Tail End Charlie (TEC) holds off the lane 3 chariot race till the group can get into lane 2. TEC can then dive for lane 2.

Or if the mood takes me as T.E.C I have snicked down 2 gears requested from Admiral Laverick permission to leave the fleet and engage the enemy. With permission granted, I will then hold off until the group has moved to lane 2 then engage with the Punto, this involves accelerating to just beyond his maximum speed then sweeping into lane  2 and back into 3 without him having the power to get past. To be honest they do not seem to notice option 2 is to follow them with all HID lights deployed they do not like that. Eventually I slow down and rejoin the group.

The heat is intense and the roads are sapping energy from all of us. We stop mid morning and discuss who is going to the toe of Italy or who is having a couple of days off and waiting here for the others to return from going down and back up Italy. We all want to press on. The intensity of the driving seems to ease after Gerona and we lunch in a supermarket car park with produce from the deli.

After lunch Wilky and PJ try to fuel in a petrol station which takes credit cards but the pumps do not seem to like 4 figure PIN numbers. As the boys struggle the attendant sleeps through his lunch on a camping bed in the shade of a tree. I think it must have been a 23 hour petrol station. We make a couple more quick runs and stop late afternoon on a camp site at Vulsina called Camping Pioneer Etrusco.

www.campingpionieretrusco.com .

We pitch up and get the tents up in a loose formation on a large pitch our near neighbours seem to be out as there is no movement from the enormous motor home on the next pitch.

Now imagine you are a well to do successful German business man, you have parked your enormous motor home in a quiet, tree covered camp site. You have no neighbours as you set off too the beach on the 125 motorcycle from the garage in the back of your motor home. Sat behind you is your darling wife with the tennis pro body and the all over tan. After a day on the beach you return with a cooling bottle of vino and a couple of steaks for the BBQ.

 

You discover what appears to be some sort of motorcycle protest group has set up camp. As you dismount you hear erupting from a tent what can only be aloud and lengthy fart (Wilky) next to him a strange man with a white body and red arms (PJ) is hanging up his underwear to dry on a line suspended between the trees the bald bloke (me) has a stove going with a flame about three feet high which smells like a petrochemical plant, he is also smoking whilst re filling his other stove bottle and is only dressed in shorts held up by string. Ali is dressed in a one piece black wicking base layer which makes her appear like someone from a super hero comic but super heroes do not wear flip flops. Then the bald fire starter greets your wife and you sounding like that Terry Thomas chap.

As the tennis pro wife enters the motor home in fits of giggles and Wilky has emerged from the tent driven out by his own smells to greet our neighbour with a cheery “Bonjour”, you can see his romantic break has just taken a nose dive.

To give the man his due he carried on dragging out the gas BBQ and producing a well groomed cat on an extending tether string which proceeded to sit staring at my food cooking apart from when it was cleaning its pencil sharpener.

This sets us up for 10 minutes of Mrs Slocum’s pussy jokes. The pet cat prowled the border whilst Herman Zee German cooked the steaks. When his  back was turned  the stuffed Beaver I had stolen from Wilky’s bike made a move for the cat, the cat re entered the motor home very quickly.

We went off to the bar area, leaving them to it. When we returned, the “love nest” was in darkness. As Wilky did his pre-sleep mix of Yoga and core relaxation (farting), Fraulin was again reduced to fits of laughter.

So as the day draws to a close, I do my accounts. I have spent over 50 euro today on tolls the bike average speed has crept up a bit to 49.3mph and the fuel economy overall is 47mpg.

We all retired to bed. Can I just mention that one of my favourite films is “Dances with wolves” I really like the bit in the film when the Indian explains to Kevin Costner why he was known as “Dances with Wolves”. The Indian explains that when he first saw Costner he was running around in the long grass chasing a wolf.

Now I have stayed away from describing so far in this missive what we shall refer to as night toilet arrangements. The majority of the males including myself had gone for varying designs of night comfort bottles. This has been found on previous camping trips to reduce the number of walks required during the night to the toilet block.

When one arises in the morning ones drapes a towel over the bottle and you can then discreetly carry the “Night Water” to the shower block where it can be emptied and cleaned. Now we had realised earlier in the trip that BCL’s bottle had a couple of design flaws in relation to capacity and his ability to seal it when full.  He had after an evening of re-hydration filled it on a couple of occasions. (to be continued on day 12)

End of Day 11

Day 12

Now I was up early and getting a brew on. BCL I could hear, was getting up and it was almost dawn. I could see from the tent shadow show from his torch, BCL was having some trouble getting out and there were grunts and groans from the Laverick tent. It transpired that his tent zip had stuck. So it came to pass that whilst struggling to carry his night comfort bottle, hold his torch and open the zip all at the same time, he got leg cramp. As he emerged from the tent trying not to spill or drop anything and rub his leg whilst hopping about that he became known as “Dances with Pi**”

I am in a state of collapse and the laughter and groaning from BCL has the camp awake including the love nest. We pack up quickly and after retrieving our passports we are on the road at 8:25

By 10am it is 29 degrees and the riding is intense, the traffic volume and behaviour around Rome and Napoli is intense. Gerona was a walk in the park compared with this.

We stop and I realise it is exactly 6 months to the day since I picked the bike up from the dealers and it is showing 10,000 miles. I am reminded that on the day I picked it up and old gent challenged me to get out on it more after I told him it had done only 80 miles (2 hours old)

 

After a picnic lunch in a service station we press on. The group first aid kit which has been Roc strapped on the off side pannier lid decides it has had enough and falls off to split open and cover the autostrada in plasters and bandages. I am quite annoyed and agitated as well as being hot and tired. As I have found with this gang of travellers you can not stay down for long. PJ does a fly past and I am cooled by a direct hit from the water pistol. I retaliate by bouncing tic tacs off his helmet. We turn from the autostrada down towards the Amalfi coast.

 

The roads are narrow and the villages stunning with views over the low walls of bright blue sea and enormous cruise ships.Travelling up hill against us are numerous coaches on guided tours. The coach drivers seem to know the dimensions of there coaches to the millimetre. They however have no intention of stopping and doing a hill start. They DO NOT STOP for anybody, I watch one swing out of a bend within 2 inches of Paul. I thought it had him but the driver seemed taken aback by my gestures. I am tired so decide just to slow down and enjoy the views. I do not want to keep testing the ABS with heavy braking to avoid the up hill coaches. I crack open my helmet, light up, take second gear and slow down. I am then overtaken on the inside of a hairpin bend by a free wheeling moped the rider of which is on his mobile phone and wearing only shorts and flip flops.

The climb back up is just as tiring we are all flagging a bit. We press on back on the fast dual carriageways. We all have a near miss in a tunnel with an HGV tyre carcass spread across both lanes. Enough is enough and we dive off and find a hotel. I seem to realise, as do the others, just how close we came to a disaster

 

We are in Reggio Calabria in the Motel Forum and we are in on a cash deal. The bikes are locked in the underground car park. I have been dragged off to a bedroom by Brian (I think we are engaged) or it could be the volume of my snoring compared with Pumba (Wilky) and the Texas Chain saw (Paul)

www.motelforum.it

 

As we review the day, we have had high temperatures, the Triumph struggled in any slow traffic, the LT does not seem happy and Brian is worried he has boiled clutch fluid of the LT on the Amalfi coast hairpins.

Ali does her language skills and after Spaghetti Bolognese and mixed grill it is an early night for me. I have done 4624 miles on this trip so far.

 

 

Day 13 Friday the 2nd

To Reggio and the turn for home.

We aim to get to the toe of Italy today and in my mind we then turn for home.

I have woken up with a sore left wrist (Stop sniggering Wilkinson)

The roads are a mix of new ones and ones under construction with single carriageway through dusty road works which often have no top surface – it is like riding on sand. By 11am we have a new high temperature for a morning of 38.5. At a fuel stop we converse with an Italian wagon driver about our trip – lots of English words with “io” on the end.

“Channelio Tunnelio” for example. He seems to understand and then using the map on the screen of my bike educates all the other drivers of our route and the location of the “Chanellio Tunnelio”. After a couple of hours on the bike the aches and pains have gone. It seems my body is morphing to the norm being sat on the bike and being off it causes aches and pains. Fuel today was 1.71 a litre

2:45pm a high temperature of 40 degrees an airplane flying overhead at a low height. We have passed numerous fires on the verge and in the distance the mountains are on fire and helicopters are dumping water on them.

 

At 4:00 pm we pull up at the beech at the toe of Italy. I park and PJ slips in front then BCL parks in front of him.

Hmm not having the lardy LT further south than a GS so I move across the road next to the beach. PJ has caught on to what I am doing so as I dismount he parks on the pavement still further south. I acknowledge defeat, he has parked the furthest south, PJ leaves the bike and walks onto the deserted beach. He strips off and goes for a swim. I thought he was having a Reggie Perrin moment. He returns having swum in the sea. He has had his moment and without a word between us, I have understood.

 

After a drink and a ciggy I go for my moment of solitude and swim off the toe of Italy. I collect a pebble for H and speak to the lady herself. Sat here on the beach I miss her terribly and it all gets a bit emotional on the phone. The voice and the distance all add to the stunning location which is empty. No tat shops, no fuss nothing like Lands End or JOG.

Apparently, as I write this H is sick of me mentioning swimming “Every time Italy is mentioned on the news”

We have a picnic and all seem to be in their own thoughts or on the phone. We kit up and we are heading North(ish). The others set off as I dawdle, before riding onto the beach as they go North Kerching!!! I have ridden onto  the beach and further South than the others. Result – your serve Mr Jarred.

As we head across towards the instep of Italy, the LT struggles with the clutch slipping. Bri is struggling as the bike can hold a constant pace but any attempt to accelerate or overtake causes the clutch to spin up without putting drive to the gear box, he can not get power to the wheel.

The clutch then goes all together. Ali, PJ and Wilky keep rolling and move on ahead to see if they can find a campsite while I stick on Brian’s shoulder  offering encouragement and trying to run interference for him in the villages as it seems everyone is against keeping the bike rolling. We have red lights, skip lorries pulling out in our path and suicidal pedestrians.

If he can keep it going we can get to a campsite and then see what we can do. We do not want to be stopped by the side of the road in this heat and lots of the grass verges seem to be alight with raging fires that everyone just ignores. My suggestion to park the LT in a fire and claim on the insurance is not well received. The riding is more like a load escort at work. As the trio get ahead we lose radio contact and both Bri and  myself start to worry we have missed them and  gone past, we start to request their location constantly on the radio sometimes without a reply.

The radio was very good to be able to keep rolling and speak with Bri as he   cajoled the lardy LT to keep going, I can imagine it would have felt very lonely with a rapidly expiring bike if you were on your own.

We then spy Ali waving at the road side and we swing right into the campsite without stopping. I let out an enormous sigh of relief that we have at least a base in which to address the LT.

Wilky is sent out shopping, I start on tent erection and BCL speaks with BMW York to find out what the options are. The location of a bleed nipple is found in down near the swing arm and even though BMW say we need a special tool PJ and BCL manage to bleed the clutch hydraulics. PJ and his Leatherman are proving indispensable on this trip. The dark brown clutch fluid smells very burned.

It is only now that we have time to look at the camp site. It looks like Dale Edge (Gypsy site) after the bailiffs had been in. There are green and mouldy touring caravans, the toilets are disgusting and do not look to have been cleaned for a long time. BCL managed to break the crust in one and was driven out by the flies and the smell. There are starving cats roaming the site and skinny kittens everywhere.

 

This place is abandoned surely. It transpires that the three in the advanced group had pulled in when they saw the sign. An old man with a dog had greeted them and taken the money and pointed to any pitch they wanted.

Now call me the cynical copper but I think we have been scammed.

I imagine that Giuseppe has been sent out with the dog to get from under his wife’s feet. He walks down to the condemned camp site to exercise the dog when three English bikers insist on giving him money.

I don’t know what the wife said when he came home drunk 4 hours later, having spent our pitch money, having left earlier to walk the dog penniless or should that be euro less.

 

I do not sleep well, tom cats wowling, geckos on the tent and an owl in the trees, hunting and all to a background of Wilky and PJ or what sounded like a chain saw and a Series 1 Land Rover trying to start.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 14 To Gallipoli  Saturday.

Brian is up early and like a child on Christmas morning looking for presents under the tree is down on his knees next to the LT. There is no clutch fluid and no sign of a leak, the clutch master cylinder seems to have kept its level and there is pressure on the clutch lever when you pull it.

We pack up. The site does not look any better in the dawn light. We set off with raised spirits that the LT is sorted. Down the drive to the coast road and we indicate right and turn onto our route. As we turn right out of the site onto the busy road BCL goes to accelerate into the traffic and the clutch spins up and slips.

He can keep the LT moving but he has no acceleration capability and it even struggles a bit on inclines. I look in the Sat-Nav for a BMW dealer and it directs us 50+ miles to Catanzaro. After a tense ride to a duff Sat Nav location we eventually find a crisp new BMW Motarrad dealer which is shut with a locked high gates and no signage to suggest they have popped out for lunch.

We move just round the corner to a little industrial estate with a Suzuki dealership. Whilst myself and BCL use my BMW rescue card to speak with BMW international assistance Wilky goes helmet shopping.

BCL puts on his posh voice and speaks with Bob at BMW assist. Their records show BCL is not a member but the bike has a full dealer service history and Bob tries to help. It appears that the dealer we are outside (near) is one of only 2 in Italy that are Motarrad and could do the job, but they are not open until Monday morning. We all adjourn to a café to discuss the options available.

It is clear that the LT can not continue and if we leave this dealer, we must get to the other in Milan which is a long way and not really an option. Bri could hit the rescue flare and spend three days in a recovery truck and be taken home – also not an option. Milan and the rescue truck are therefore quickly discounted.

So if BCL is staying, how do we work this? The group is not keen on leaving BCL by himself but how do we split the group, We also have a  commitment to our sponsors and the GNAAS. For me, the Trophy needs to be with PJ as he seems to be able to keep it on the road. Eventually we go for a 3-2 split; Wilky, Ali and PJ to crack on with the route and I will stay with BCL till Monday and we have more idea on the time schedule for the LT.

The three set off and we wave them on their way. Hearing Ali and PJ on the radios as they vanish into the distance was weird and BCL and myself head up into the town to find a hotel.

Now Catanzaro is built with the old town on a hill and the new urban and business area including the garage in the valley. Both Brian and I have similar Sat-Nav systems and we input find the nearest hotel. We are directed up into the old town at one point the Sat-Nav tries to take us up a flight of stone steps – do-able on the GS maybe but not really on an LT with a dodgy clutch. We pull up outside hotel one, which is closed and derelict, Try again Hotel two looks very similar to the “Star of the Sea” (see episode 1). On the third attempt we find a hotel, that is open but they want 169 euro each per night. They direct us to the Benny Hotel, I can not help but think of Crossroads and Miss Diane.

The Benny Hotel has rooms and we check in Room 211 a twin room which we book till Monday morning.

www.bennyhotel.it

 

After un-packing, we hit the Supermarket next door to top up our survival kits.  After shopping in the Italian supermarket I have obtained sweets with lots of E numbers, crisps and snacks etc. Bri has bought a bottle of Scottish water (the 15 year old type)

 

I have a bit of a walk leaving Bri with some space as he tries to work out the options, from the car park of the hotel I can watch the helicopters fighting the  fires on the hill side as they dump enormous loads of water on the fires.

I phone home and discuss with H what has happened. I am flat down and I feel very tired, but as the lady reminded me “It is not a holiday, it is an epic adventure”. OHH touché pet, you got me with that one. As I sit outside smoking, I text PJ. It seems weird with the group split and I re-visit the decision. I conclude it was the only way as we could not have had the Trophy in the catch up group.

At 5;30 pm PJ phones to say that they have done about 150 miles. Wilky’s new Givi open face helmet which he bought this morning from the Suzuki dealers has made a difference and he can go faster for longer as he is cooler. Well his temperature is cooler, it does not look good with the beard. On the plus side, the beaver now has a little house with a stunning picture window and an integral mirror system for watching the road ahead. The three are between Gallipoli and Taranto.

The hotel is filling up with parents and teenage children and it seems that tomorrow is the first day at University for the children and lots of families have driven down the day before.

I re-join Bri who has been on the internet on www.lardylt.com and found a photo of an LT clutch change. The bike in the photograph looks like it has been sawn in two. I can not help but think this can not be a quick job. My thoughts are on what to do and how to do it, one of us, both of us, do-able mileage . Bl**dy hell, I decide to leave it, as I do not have enough information to work out what the question is never mind what the answer is.

We hit the restaurant and dine, then we sit outside watching the locals before watching Bay Watch in Italian then the news. It is the first TV news I have seen and I can not quite work out what is going on in Libya. An early night with the room full of fresh laundered clothing and polished boots.

End of day 14

Sunday in Benny’s 4th September

I wake up at 6:30 am, it is weird as every other morning it has been wake up pack up, kit up and get going. We try to find some rugby ion the TV or anything to pass some time the clocks have slowed we are tense and it is going to be a long day.

We plan today to look at mileage and route options to work out who is going to do what and when Brian is updating the forum and there are some well wishers replies for him.

So if the trio are to be in Venice Monday evening and I leave after the bike goes in the garage, straight line route to Venice is 670 miles so 10 hours at 70 mph with a couple of hours for breaks, I could maybe catch up late Monday night.

Or if I do the route round the coast it is a 1000+miles to Cortina so that would be two 500+mile days.

I stop myself and remember thinking of doing the 500 mile challenge before I got involved with the Boundary500. I had some trepidation of a 500 mile day, since then I have done a 880 mile day on the marathon and I have no qualms about the journey ahead.

I want to do the route and not take in any short cuts so I decide I will aim to catch up on Tuesday in Cortina if I am to leave Bri on Monday morning.

I spend the afternoon on house keeping, checking over the bike, cleaning out the camel-back, which seems to have something growing in it. I clean off 15 days worth of dead insects from the helmet and I even polish my boots

5pm and we are sat outside the hotel. It seems that the bar of Benny’s is one of a very limited number of places you can buy ciggys on a Sunday and there are a constant stream of cars and bikes pulling into the car park. It seems that quite a few of the drivers have had a few vinos with their lunch and the driving and parking of the cars is quite entertaining.

The front of the hotel has a high raised marble step which abuts the car park. It is higher than the bottom of modern car bumpers. We watch a Saab drive in and hit the kerb hard enough to pop the bumper off at both ends. The driver gets out looks shrugs goes in the bar returns and drives off.

I speak with PJ and the trio are 50 miles short of St Bernadette they have had temperatures over 40 degrees. Wilky now has a camel back due to repairs carried out by  www.pjfixedit.com fixed it.

Myself and Paul discuss options and PJ is thinking of riding back down to keep the old duffer sorry our gallant leader company if I set off and leave him. We conclude it is out of our hands until BMW indicate if, and when the LT can be fixed.

If the LT can be fixed and on the road for Tuesday tea time, I will stay with BCL and we will catch up together, if it will be beyond Tuesday, I will leave Monday morning and do the full route to get back en-route and time table aiming to catch up with the trio in Cortina..

As we settle down for the night I can feel the tension. Tomorrow is judgement day for the LT.

Meanwhile the intrepid trio found a hotel (don’t ask where, we weren’t taking notes) for a very reasonable rate and immediately adjourned to the gloriously refreshing swimming pool outside). We then had dinner, which was a bit on the disappointing side if we’re honest and a few drinks. When the “turn” came on, it didn’t seem like it was our thing so we discussed whether or not we should walk down the road to find a pizzeria – after all, we’d left the parents down South – so that’s what we did, like naughty children, we nipped out and stuffed our faces with real Italian pizza – HEAVEN.

The parents were duly texted with conflicting information that we’d been good or naughty children.

Monday 5th September

We are up at 6 and on the road at 7.35 to pull up outside the dealers at 7:50, the place is still locked and the gates shut with no sign of life. We are joined outside the locked gates by a car mechanic at 8:00 and the gates are opened at 8:10 we ride in to park in Riservato clienti BMW.

We speak with the two employees on the bike side of the dealership, one is the service manager and the other the mechanic.

Brian goes into Englishman abroad mode and starts using all languages and charades to explain.  “Clutchio kaputio”. We are struggling! The service manager seems keen to tackle the job but the mechanic has a negative body language.

Bri and the two hover over the screen, there is much sucking of air through teeth from the BMW side of the desk and forceful enthusiasm from Bri.

At one point the service manager asks where we are from and when we reply Middlesbrough, we have a very animated conversation about Ravenelli. “The white feather”, talk of hat tricks against Manchester United and lots of praise for the Boro Boys and the attitude of our hosts changes.

It appears once the parts are found the job is “No problemo” and it will be sorted.

A figure is quoted for the cost and I ask how much labour will be thinking that is the price for the parts alone. But no that is the price for the complete job and the labour time is guaranteed.

They insist it will be done for Wednesday tea time.

Here are the pictures of a GS having a clutch change. This one is easy compared to the LT. BMW say 15 hours and in the USA its two thousand dollers.

Picture 002

Picture 005 Picture 006I transport BCL back to the hotel Benny. Let’s just say that Bri is a far better rider than he is a pillion.

10:30 I hit the road solo. I do not have a lot of notes in the journal. I am at Gallipoli at 3:10pm by 6;20pm I have 11,000 on the bike and a very high average speed. I have also lost the auto-com lead from bike to helmet. After speaking with England I stop for the day at 8:00pm and find a hotel on the front in Francavilla. He did want 80 Euros for the night but I haggle him down to 50 for bed and breakfast. The hotel is very nice and studio ish with a lift on the out side straight down from my room to the bike.

www.hotel-diamante.it

To be continued.

 

 

 

Washed showered and walk along the front whilst speaking with H. I buy pizza and French fries which turns out to be French fry pizza with the chips on the pizza under the cheese.

Average speed for the whole trip is up to 54.3 mph and fuel is at 46.3mpg.  Do not ask me about any views or places the concentration level was a raised with the making of progress. The trip mileage is 5,552.4

Meanwhile the intrepid trio again find a hotel somewhere else in Italy at a fair rate and settle down to find food – should be easy, this is Italy. Wrong! A walk down the street reveals nothing but hotels.

We return to our hotel and try to figure out how to get food. The restaurant want 20 Euros for a very basic looking meal that Ali refused to take part in and went off to her room and did a camping meal out on the veranda.

PJ and Wilky grabbed the bull by the horns and decided to try to discover what the menu meant as there was no English translation.

Much to the amusement of two waiters and the rest of the diners, we used Brian’s tried and tested “mime the animal” routine and discovered that there was cow, pig and chicken (written) on the menu – however, when it came to choosing we were told, after all the charades, that none of them were available – DOH! Ba*****s.

So we ended up with a bowl of spinach (Paul ate that obviously) and pasta – in hindsight, Ali had the best idea!

Tuesday 6th September  To Cortina d’Ampeso

A poor sleep I could not get the air con right for the first time in Italy I was too cold. I am on the bike by 7:00am. Again I do not have a lot of notes. I know I pushed it a bit on fuel range and filled up with the bike saying I had a mile left. I had spoken with Jim and he will bring out a spare auto-com lead. I am managing by plugging into the pillion lead but I can not stand up without disconnecting. If you have ridden with me you will know I stand up a lot to stretch and improve my view. As a consequence I am pulling out the lead and I am missing Sat-Nav instructions and  missing phone calls from “The Italian home for bewildered LT owners”  After an expensive drive up the  back of the thigh of Italy (“Stop sniggering Wilkinson”) I get round/through/under/over Venice. I really must update my Sat-Nav map base.

After Venice or it could be Venice’s from the detours I did, I start up hill for Cortina. I nip past a BMW Z4 with polish registration plates that read

W1 JBOND he is fast on the straights but can not get in the overtakes. He wants to play, so we have a dice for 10 mile or so. After a couple of overtakes he gets left behind and I get to Cortina at 5:30pm to a brilliant welcome from Ali and PJ  and Wilky.

www.hotelcornelio.com

After tea, medals and war stories we hit the town. Bl***y hell this is one expensive place and we decline numerous restaurants on cost alone. The town is very pretty with lots going on but the shop and hotel prices are WOW. We eventually go for pizza which works out at 12 euro but a bottle of water is 4 euro.

I have done the toe of Italy to Cortina in the Alps in two days. I have the oil light on and nothing in the sight glass, I am tired, content and just a little smug at the distance I have done in two days. Charlie and Ewan phew light weights.

The Spaniel has launched, Jimbo has set off and is heading South towards the split groups. Jimbo had intended to do the E.C.C but restrictions on the time off he could take imposed by his employer had cause him to pull out.

He is bringing chocolate digestives. Jimbo was at one point referred to on a forum thread as the shepherd as he was going to round us up and get us all heading in the same direction. I will explain later how he became known as “The Spaniel” .

Cortina to Gross glockner and bikers point

We have a late start we all want to know what is happening with the LT there seems to be a bit of a reluctance to travel.

I speak with BCL and he states the LT can be “withdrawn” from the premises after 12 mid day

Some of us are struggling with the lack of sleep and do not relish camping but some want to cut down costs and stay away from hotels. We consider staying in Italy and exploring the local passes. We struggle to find a cheaper hotel; or any sort of lodgings there is a nice campsite but hmmmm.

Bri sends a text he is packed and getting a taxi down to the garage he hopes to be on the road for 3:00pm

Knowing Bri is going to be travelling the three boys set off for the Gross glockner and Ali decides to explore locally and we will  meet up again later when the trio head back into Italy or at Landeck.

We leave Cortina and up into the mountains with a steep climb and lots of hair pins to Misurina which is breath-taking. It is a village of chalets and quaint hotels next to a glacial lake of the most incandescent blue and surrounded by snow peaked mountains. In fact it is so good PJ, stops and gets his camera out for only the fifth time on the trip. You now it is a good view when Paul stops to take a photo. We head down and towards Austria and as I need some oil as I have used up my spare bottle and some of Ali’s. I stop at a filling station and the oil is 48 euro per litre. No way am I going to pay that I can do without for awhile. Only 2 miles up the road and into Austria and it is down to 28 euro which is still a lot but needs must. As we travel along a valley bottom we pass a memorial to get a friendly wave from three bikers with Harleys. We stop and turn as PJ and Wilky recognise them

We are miles from home and bumped into three riders from Teesside. Cross Rob, Piper Bob and Jan – we pass the time of day like we have stopped on the Whitby Road but it is a bit surreal to be so far from home.

We stop in Austria at a farm shop of the nursery rhyme farmer type. And after suitable re-fuelling we press on.

The road winds along a valley of sweeping bends and green pastures and we start to make a bit of progress on the BMW’s as they enjoy the roads they were made for. As we head down towards a town we get a flash and a flat palm down wave and I grab the brakes, as I slow rapidly a tall gentleman in  navy blue steps from a bus stop on the off side he appears to have lock and despite the BMW deploying chaff and counter measures, he has got us. I only hope my evasive tactics allowed me to reduce speed before he got a reading.  We pull into a bus stop and as I would say if I had been the pointer and not the target “Have a little chat in my office”.

The police officer with the LT20/20 Laser is immaculate in a pressed uniform and a highly polished weapon namely a large Glock on his right hip. With him seems to be his grand-dad in a first world war Prussian officers uniform the collar of which is way too big. I think Grand-dad may have lost some weight since his uniform was issued. .

He goes for PJ first while I consider my options including old boys club, straight cough of guilt or  play a game “Of me no speako the lingo”. It seems I was allegedly travelling at 120 k in a 70 k limit, pleased I got the brakes on before he got lock.

Now do I play the joker or take it on the chin.

“What happens now officer” enquires I.

He asks for the registration document and insurance and states in immaculate English if they are in order it will be a spot fine of 35 Euros and no points.

Result; I will settle for that. At this point the old gentleman hits the deck screaming something about Air raid and “Achtung Lancaster”.  “Achtung Bomben”.

We look up the road to see Wilky on the Triumph trying to ride past with an incredibly smug look on his face. He is sat and riding like he is on his test and is clearly struggling to hold in the laughs.

We both pay up and are issued with tickets. It is only later I notice the ticket is made out to Mr BMW and Paul’s is made out to Mr R1200GS.

We catch up with Wilky, who has parked further up the road and is still grinning like a Cheshire cat.

We crack on towards the Gross glockner and stop at the toll. I hand in my ticket from June pay the nice man and we are off. I have ridden this road in June and have viewed the video.

In June I was with H as Pillion who does not relish hair pin bends and has a very real fear of heights so I rode with some passenger sympathy. I am still amazed and privileged that the girl subjects herself to facing her fears so I can go places on the bike

This ride is going to be special.  But something is not right, the road is not how I remembered it to be and rehearsed on the video. Hold on, what’s this roundabout doing here? We are then at Franz Joseph glacier. Somebody has stolen the Gross. We stop for a quick look at the glacier which does not seem to have moved much since June. Wilky points out that we have come at the Gross from the other side so have joined beyond bikers point Duh.

Then back on and heading down for Zell Am Zee.  We arrange to meet at Biker’s Point and it is Tally Ho. For a while we are joined by a Yamaha Tenere which is 2 up and seems determined not to let us pass. But his speed limiter gets him with a kidney punch and he slows and we are off. I love this road, with its superb cross views and the bike seems to suit it. We are doing lots of inside hairpin over takes and also lots of braking overtakes of slower traffic on down hill approaches to bends. It seems to be over in 5 minutes as we take in the lack of a view from the car park below bikers point. At least I think it is below bikers point as it is in cloud.

Now in Brian’s original plan we were going to stay in the cabins at bikers point and observe the night sky, this seems a bit pointless in the low cloud so we decide to press on down towards Zell am Zee.

We are soon at the bottom having caught and passed a large group of UK registered bikes after a stop near the toll both for ice cream we press on looking for digs on the road side

We stop at a chalet stating Zimmer Frie. I am allowed to enquire of the host if they have rooms. This is a big moment for me as it is the first time I have been allowed to ask since the brothel incident in Spain.

I remind myself of my limited German and approach the door of Chalet Charlotte in the village of Fusch on the Grossglocknerstrasse. I am greeted by Nicola the English owner and her 21 month old daughter Charlotte. I immediately fall head over heels in love with Charlotte and think of my twin Granddaughters of a similar age. We are made very welcome and Nicola allows us a room each at the cost of a shared room for 3. As I walk into my room the house cat is cleaning its pencil sharpener on the bed.

It is persuaded to leave and after a shower we go down to the lounge where Nicola has cold beers awaiting us.

info@chaletcharlotte

f all the hotels we use on this trip, I would recommend this stunning home and the hosts without reservation. If you are going to do the Grossglockner stay here

Nicola recommends that we use the restaurant just down the road, the Hotel Gastoff. We walk down and the host asks if we like deer we say yes and it appears we are getting deer escalopes. As we try to enquire what else is available on the menu we have a roundabout conversation about liking or not liking deer. It is stopped with the arrival of the drinks. After eating (deer) we are joined by Kenny from Belgium who is on a short break on his GS. We discuss roads traffic law and biker places – his English is thankfully very good. At one point it looks as if Kenny is going to join our little band but the timing is tight for him to get back home so in the end he must head off towards the Stelvio tomorrow. I hope he made it and Wilky’s scare stories about the pass that shall not be named did not put him off.

The average speed is 51.3mph and the fuel economy 46.6 with the trip total mileage at 6214.

I retire to be woken by a text at 6:50 am Brian has ridden non stop and is 134 miles from Cortina he wants to meet us there.

He has ridden through the night from the toe of Italy round the coast to Cortina a journey of some 1000 miles in eighteen hours miles outstanding.  He wants to meet at Cortina.m_7

Now I am reluctant to back track to the expense of Cortina after breakfast so I speak with Bri and we arrange to meet at the end of the day at Toronto that will put us back as five and on route and on schedule.

We spend some time addressing the chain on the Trophy. Mike’s bike sounds like a twin tub full of nuts and bolts and set on the spin cycle. After adjustment of the chain tension we set off on a convoluted route through Zell am Zee before heading for Krimmel then Innsbruck and the Brenner Pass and back into Italy. We have had heavy rain, drizzle, very slippy tar banding, then drying roads and rising temperatures as the day grew older. We struggle to follow Brian’s directions to find the hotel, not helped by both mine and Paul’s Sat Nav insisting that the hotel we were looking for was in the middle of an empty roundabout

We eventually find the Hotel Moserm_1 and on first appearance in looks a dump, it is a dirty beige colour and located on the fore court of a petrol station. Inside it has been extensively renovated and the rooms are nice. We join Ali and Bri sat in the sun, watching tractors towing trailers full of grapes going to the COOP wine press and we are introduced to Big mamma, the land lady. She sings as she walks and works and Bri serenades her when she walks past. The drinks flow and we set about ordering what we want for our evening meal. Big mamma calls in reinforcements in the shape of her Granddaughter to deal with the English and her mother to help with the cooking. We think we have ordered steak, egg and chips but who knows we could get “Cow with an egg” or “wee with chicken” depending on how the group charades have been interpretedm_3 m_4m_5

We later dine on steak, egg and roast potatoes so we got something right.  The group are back together and the craic is good. Bri looks tired and flags as the evening wears on. We all retire looking forward to the famed named passes planned for tomorrow.m_6m_2

End of Day 19

Day 20. Tronto to Landeck

As we pay the bill we come to realise that the cute little old lady is actually a switched on business woman who also owns the garage. We pay for the steak. We are on the road for 9:20am and Brian is feeling good to be back with the group he lets us get on the road without an inspection. We start to climb immediately and we stop in a the village of Madonna di campiglio for morning coffee. We then press on and at 12:20 we are at the top of the Pass de Tonale at an altitude of 1884m in temperatures of 18-24 degrees.

We press on to Cima Gavia if you have not seen the video  this is a  steep climb through woods and sharp sided valleys which at times is a single track with intermittent passing places.

As we set off it was PJ at the front then Wonky Donkey then Bri. Brian then stopped to switch on the video allowing the GS pair to get ahead. As on all the passes, we are passed by fast local bikes riding the road on memory and luck. Their riding ability is not how they get ahead it is more the way they overtake without a forward view relying on there ability to avoid what they can not see.

One rider just after screaming past me and Paul clipped the lead Porsches of a Porsche tour and we came upon a bit of a row between the rider and the owner of the one door mirrored car. At first they refused to allow us past and we formed the impression that we were to be blamed for the sports bike riders sin.

As the two big blokes on big bikes edged towards the 911 convoy they seemed to have a change of heart and they quickly shuffled out of the way of the metal panniers adorning our bikes.

As we climbed we could look down into the valley to see the 911 road block and the LT and others approaching.

On a tight uphill left hand hairpin I ran a little wide and realising I was going onto gravel slowed and stood the bike up. There was no way I was going to get round and I wanted to be upright as I hit the gravel.

As I braked to a stop trying to avoid going into the ditch, the front locked and I brought her right, to lean on the ditch side against the steep slope.

Almost immediately I was rescued by a nice Dutch couple on a Yamaha 1300 FJR. As I was able to re start the donkey and get on my way before the video bike had got to the scene. The only damage being a scratch on the off side cylinder head and off side pannier.

When we stopped at the top I admitted my indiscretion and was subjected to some constructive feedback on my riding ability. I still maintain it was “Adventure parking” and does not count as a crash. The Gavia is a stunning ride and the views are incredible but it is not for the feint hearted with no crash barrier and sheer cliff drops at the road edge.

We travelled on and up to the Stelvio top, after the Gavial the Stelvio was like a dual carriageway. After stopping at the top, I had the pleasure to watch Wilky conquer his nemesis. The look on Wilkys face as he stopped at the top is a memory I will treasure.  As I tried to park on the very steep car park the bike almost tipped off it’s stand as I dismounted.

We were force fed by Bri on a large sausage and sauerkraut concoction which, if had been served anywhere else, would have been declined. Ali had not stopped at the top so we got the photograph of the four of us, as used by the Evening gazette and sat for awhile taking in the atmosphere of all around us. We were united in that we had done the Stelvio.

I had wanted to ride this road since watching the original Italian Job film – you know the one, with Michael “Your only supposed to blow the bloody doors off” Caine.

We travelled down into Austria and with the Stelvio and Gavia conquered I decided to have a bit of a bimble so dropped off the back of the group. I miss-heard a radio instruction on a turn without realising and as I travelled on I saw the border and was waved through on the other side. The flags seemed familiar but not Austrian. Oops, I am in Switzerland and so after an about turn, I leave sharpish, as I have not paid the carnet.

Back in Italy as I ride I whistle the Great Escape tune.  A sharp left and a bit of progress and I catch up with Bri, PJ and Wilky refuelling at a petrol station.

On arrival the following conversation took place.

Says I “Paul, what have you and Steve McQueen got in common”

Paul “I have no idea”

Me “Neither of you got into Switzerland on your motorbikes”

I then explain how I have added an extra country into my list.

We have a good laugh as I continue to bounce my imaginary ball against the cooler wall and hum my new favourite tune. Dah dah de de dah dah, dahah de d da de dadah, dum dum da dum. You know the one if you have seen the film, which it turns out Paul had not, so my ball bouncing and tune humming falls on uneducated ears.

Bri navigated us down into Landeck and to the BMW Motoradd Hotel we park amongst many other bikes.

www.hotel-enzian.com

A lot of which are UK registered. After booking in we catch up with Ali and Jimbo. As I look at my journal I note the written note from Jimbo “Jimbo joined us at Landeck” punctuated with a smiley face. The room standard is good and the hotel facilities are also good. At the back is a wash down area for the bikes as well as a small garage housing a fleet of BMW demo bikes and a small workshop. The bikes are parked under cover and riders walk round looking at each others bikes. The Donkey gets some looks as people see the route and the country and pass stickers adorning her. The average speed is down to 41.9 mph fuel is 47.0 mpg. We all dine together the food is excellent and medals are awarded after war stories are swapped. Jimbo has injected some fresh views, humour and war stories. I am pleased he has joined us as I enjoy his company and riding.

Day 21

For me a day off a bit of house keeping bike checks a and shopping to find something for H. A lazy morning then a bimble into town and a coffee and shopping before back to the hotel to sit and watch the riders and bikes. At the time I was pleased for the day off. I felt a bit guilty that Jimbo had come all that way and on his first day I cried off but at the time I needed a day out of my boots. I would later regret this decision, as with a couple of hundred miles today, I would have cracked 8,000 miles when we had got back to Redcar.

Day 22. Landeck to Titisee

6:30am, up, packed and bill paid. Now we have not had a bike joke for awhile as I approach the Donkey she seems to be camouflaged with a climbing ivy. It is removed and I go off to find PJ’s GS as I am down under the back of it I hear German voices and I emerge from under the GS with his trailing ivy fitted to his panniers. The Germans stop and stare keeping a straight face I state as I walk past, “Quaint English custom old boy” Brian who hears this almost  chokes trying to stifle his laughter. He has the advantage of seeing the look on the German faces which are behind me.

We set off as a six group for the first time, the dynamics of the group have changed now Jimbo in the blink of an eye can go from sat at the group speed in formation to leaping out picking off an overtake or to sit in lane 2 alongside the group leader then just as quickly drop back before leaping out again. He reminds me of a Springer spaniel who could walk at heel for so long then just had to chase something before coming back to heel. He is christened the Spaniel.

PJ is leading and after some question of his navigating skills, Brian has offered a suggestion on the radio, followed by a suggestion from Ali and another from the spaniel. Ride leader exerts his authority and then the radio is silent.

I enquire of Brian by radio how long PJ can be quite before his silence qualifies as sulking. PJ tries not to bite as we decide 0 to 2 minutes is okay. 2- 3 minutes is a flounce over 3 minutes is a sulk unless of course the rider goes straight to “Teddy Out”.  At which PJ mimes the action of a teddy bear leaving the cot, we can see his shoulders rocking in laughter and his flounce of 2 minutes 38 seconds is over. We travel down the Alberg pass steep down hills with hairpins and narrow bridges. We travel roads we used in June on the way to Austria, stopping in the filling station we used in June to buy the carnet tickets. In June PJ Cath and me and Helen had a bit of a moment crossing what we thought was a one way street. Kath as pillion to Paul did a bit of a Matrix Neo moment and seemed to alter time and space slowing a Jaguar that almost took them out.

After leaving the filling station we passed the point that the Triumph had overheated in June and I did some traffic control to get the tail back of German traffic past as the Triumph water bottle was replenished with strawberry flavoured water.

Waving my arms and telling the Germans “Move along these are not the droids you are looking for”

The radio seems to have moved to Second world war RAF banter with “tally ho’s” a plenty. We have a pub lunch in a Texas Burger pub alongside lake Boedenz.

The chain is now jumping on the Triumph and Wilky is limiting his top speed. We stop in a service station and chat with two English lads who had done the Stelvio in a vintage Ford car. At 4:50pm we are in Titisee but so it seems is everyone else the pension we had aimed for is full and so are the neighbours. We climb out of town and negotiate a cash deal in the gasthous Refwinkel where we are hidden like crashed airmen on the top floor.

www.gasthaus-rehwinkel.de

Myself, Paul and Brian walk down to the lake side and sit in the setting sun. After some sticker shopping we walk back up into town to meet Jimbo and Ali. We all stop for Strudel on a restaurant covered terrace and the heavens open with torrential rain. After the rain stops, we dash for the hotel and all meet up in the bar. The dozen chickens roasting on the spit roast we saw as we booked in have all gone and Wilky denies responsibility. So a plate of chips it is then before retiring to our hide out in the loft.

Titisee to Cochem via the B500 day 23

The puddles in the hotel car park suggest it has been raining heavy overnight the wet ground has forced a lot of snails out from the shrubbery. A number are encouraged to take residence on one of the bikes. They seem quite happy on the petrol tank and panniers. A phone call home reveals it is cold and windy at home.

We all gather near the bikes and PJ sets about removing the snails from his bike it is suggested to him that if he rode a bit quicker they would not be able to climb aboard as he rode past.

We have temperatures of 12.5 mid morning which are rather pleasant after  the highs of Italy. We travel the forest roads and the B500. The group are making progress about 10km short of Baden Baden where we stop at a road side lay-by with a little wooden tea hut. The photographs in the tea hut suggest it is a busy location in the winter with skiers parking their cars there to then ski the hill side and use the forest trails.

The Trophy has cooked the front brakes and the discs are rather hot. Closer investigation reveals a distinct lack of friction material on the front pads. The big old girl has been a bit hungry on the front brakes on our fast run through the Black Forest.

We divert towards Karlsruhe which has a Triumph Dealership. As we navigate in to the Triumph dealers it is located next to a Burger King. Only Wilky could find a mechanic and chef next door to each other. The cost of the pads is a bit steep, so steep in fact even the parts manager is embarrassed and he offers to fit them for free.

 

As me and Brian take a turn of bike minding duties we watch the German mechanic push the Trophy out from the garage to road test it with its new pads. He jumps when he starts it and spends some time looking and listening before he pulls off to ride it. When he returns he states the front brakes will last till England but he gives no guarantee on the rest of the bike. He has also sorted the intermittent fault on the rear light. We are behind time so spend a 100 miles on dual carriageway towards Klotten with the last few miles twisting across country to drop down to the banks of the Mosel on the approach to Klotten we pass 7,000 miles.

When we arrive at Klaus’ hotel we discover one of the rooms has a double bed. It would seem that Brian and I are engaged, as we are sharing the double. We catch up on Sky news, it seems Gaddafi is missing and a Russian ice hockey team have been wiped out in a plane crash.

We dine very well then sit on the terrace. The hotel is next to a railway line which links the industry of Germany to the channel ports of Holland and Belgium, so the trains are long noisy and frequent. We start to play a game where as the train passes we all go to mimes and charades. Immediately after the train has past you shout the punch line of your story. We find it hysterical and so it seems does the Aussie ex-pat German lady at the next table.  The night ends with Klaus on You tube watching Boundary videos, then a duet of Ali and Klaus on the piano.

The worst nights sleep of the trip with rumbling whistling and roaring noises and when it was not Brian it was the trains rushing past. A couple of times I give up and adjourn to the balcony and sit outside.

End of Day 23

Klotten to England via Calais day 24.

We had discussed today’s ride last night. I always find the run to the channel a bit tense. It is the day you can not be late. So we are up early and on the road. The group are determined to get the Beaver to the channel and we are going to have to keep the beaver on the road. The chain noise is bad and it seems to jump at sound at its worst at 70mph so we are keeping the speed down.

Beaver buzzing has been explained to the Spaniel and he is an enthusiastic player. Brian sits astride the LT like a shepherd watching over his flock instead of collies he has BMW GS’S which he uses to keep the Trophy on route. We name the game “One man and his GS”

By 2:00pm we are only 64 miles from the tunnel. On a long down hill section of dual carriageway Wilky discovered that the drive chain noise from the Trophy went away at 80+mph. It caught the GS collies by surprise as there charge raced off but it made a big difference on the mileage we covered.

We arrived at the tunnel early and as with any occasion on this adventure we all head for different check in machines. As we emerge on the other side three of us are booked on the 15:50 train and three on the 16:20.

We go through UK immigration in France and I follow Wilky past the passport man. As Wilky pulls away the immigration officer leans out of his booth and stares after the Beaver. As I pull up, he comments on the noise from the Trophy and suggests that it is dangerous to ride with your side stand dragging on the ground. I explain that the stand was not down and it has made that noise all round the European coast. His face is a mixture of awe and shock.

We all get on the 15:50 and we are moving towards and under the channel on time. On the train we chat with other riders returning to England and all seem impressed with what we have done

After a quick blat around the M25 using skills honed on Italian roads to deal with white van man we are back at the digs.

Jimbo has lost his house keys on the M25 Don’t ask…

I am struggling. It is hard not to keep on riding for Thirsk and home.  I am shattered but it feels wrong to be back in England and not going home. I am desperate to see H, I think when I get to hold her I may not leave go ever.  We speak on the phone and it all gets a bit emotional. H puts her sensible head on and persuades me to stick with the group.

My bike has done 12,899 miles and on the trip I have done 7567 miles, the average speed for the trip is 49.5 and the mpg returned is 46.7. The bikes are parked in a line of 6 across the front door of the hotel and they are getting lots of looks and questions. As I stand with Donkey, I feel quite proud of what the group have achieved.

We go to TGIF for a meal together. The waiter is a bit of a memory man and seems to be able to note everyone’s order for food and drinks without making a note. We test him by swapping seats after ordering and before he brings the drinks then again before the starter. It becomes apparent he is remembering the order on seat position and not on the face of the person ordering still impressive though.

After a large amount of meat and chips, I am ready to crash out. I feel a bit like a child on Christmas Eve – if I go to bed earlier will Christmas day be sooner?

It is going to be weird tomorrow as a I ride within 400m of where I live but keep going on towards Redcar.

We are slow to rise as we have plenty of time in the bag with an ETA for Thirsk of 6:00pm as the Sat-Nav states 4 hours we can take it easy. I speak with H before breakfast, she has phoned the Chris Evans Radio 2 breakfast show and they have told people on the M25 to look out for us and wave.

We hit the road after a full cooked breakfast at 10:00. Jimbo is having an intermittent mis–fire so we have to keep diving off the motorway. It makes the spaniel riding even more erratic. It seems to be fuel related and clears without resorting to spanners. We are all tired so take plenty of breaks. We are near Cambridge for 1:20pm then have a couple more stops including the famous Milk Bar at Sherburn-in-Elmet. At the milk bar area cross section of sports bikes some of which look like the milk bar is the furthest they have travelled but between our group we have 38,000 miles covered in under a month. We wander south on the A1 and stop off at Topcliffe services on the a168 for a Wilky splash and Dash as we leave the services it is 5:54pm and I guide us into Thirsk down Topcliffe Road. This means we pull into the market place behind the reception team waiting for us. We pull onto the cobbles of the market place at 6;00pm on the dot.

H looks stunning I am off the bike and in her arms just holding her and smelling her hair. Grannie Margaret (Helens mam) is also there and I spot friends and familiar faces in amongst the bikes. It takes me a while to realise just how many bikes have turned up to meet us.

We set off in a two abreast convoy of bikes and looking behind when on the A19 really is impressive. Mr Joyce and Tom do fly pasts with the video recording and we head for Redcar. We stick to the main road and soon we are approaching Kirkleatham, we pull into the village and as planned we drop back to let Brian ride in as leader. As I pull into the drive of the hall with my precious cargo, in the crowd at Kirkleatham are my son and daughter, my grandchildren and my Mam. I fill up again as all the important people are there. The twin girl granddaughters are not so sure of the noise but when they see H they run to her. Billy the grandson jumps into my arms. I have missed them all terribly.

Now Brian had set it up for a Champagne reception, he had also sorted it with the other group members to soak me, the non-drinker in champagne.

But I had trumped him and he was positioned in the centre of the group and received a Formula 1 style soaking. I have my hand shaken and back patted by many and if I failed to acknowledge you I am sorry. Kids first. Billy sits on my bike and mam gets a photo which, if I am honest, I can not really remember her taking that photograph is now paired with one I have of me with my son as a little boy, when I finished the coast to coast cycle ride.

We adjourn to the hall for tea and medals.

Then it is home as we ride home I explain to H how I feel and she enquires if  I had any problem with the seat, I explain no but now that she has mentioned it I can not get comfy. As I get home I check the seat and find two champagne corks under the sheep skin courtesy of  PJ. Nice one Paul.

At 9:00pm I am home, well I think I am. The garden has had a make over.  New carpets downstairs and the bedroom has had a total re-design and has been decorated.

H explained that it was finished late last night and that was why she encouraged me not to ride home last night.

It seems at one point when I was on the phone to her, Cath Jarred was upstairs fitting blinds. It dawns on me that Paul has known and I remember now how he would enquire if I knew what H had planned on certain days.

As I settle in, I feel incredibly tired and relieved that I am home.

Home day 1

Drained weary.

Boro 3rd  yahoo

Toon 4th Bol***s

What is that smell? Oh my god it is my riding kit. Panniers unpacked and bike gear into the washer. I get the tent out on the drive and sweep out the last of the smiley faces and evict some Portuguese ants who seem a little shocked at the weather and surroundings.

The bike gets a quick wash and a check over as PJ has enquired if I have found the wax crayon yet.

It then gets parked in the garage. I just mooch about as Helen is at work.

Now, in December as I write this, I look back on the Adventure with fond memories of shared experiences. The time on the bike was excellent and we have bonded well. I have a memory full of laughs from all who took part. Some of which are for the group only and I have not shared them here.

It is now January  as I finish typing this up and I have not been out on the bike much since the trip. Somehow, a blast to Whitby does not quite cut it at the moment. I have only just taken the route map off the screen. I think all-in, including costs abroad fuel, tyres and bike servicing etc the trip cost about £3,250.  It could be done a lot cheaper if we had camped every night. If you are thinking of doing it and have the time I would suggest you take a few days more and give yourself the chance to stop and explore places at times the nature of the ride and the challenge to do the mileage caused us to be destination lead. E.G. the mission was to get somewhere else and not look at where we were.

To the members of the www.boundary500.co.uk and  all my sponsors, thank you for your support.  It seems only a few years ago that I discussed with Helen if we could have a go at doing 500 miles in a day on The Challenge. I have since done the UK coast line in 4 days and half of the European coast at what turned out to be a total mileage of 7853 miles in 25 days.

Notice I say half the European coast. There is a lot left to do if you turn left at Calais and “Keep the sea on the left”

I have made new friends and memories which will last a life time. I have camped in many countries, done a lot more miles on my bike than I would have done without the organised rides and trips of others. Along the way I have helped by raising money for two very worthy causes and dressed as a bear, a Santa and a Zombie.

To Helen, thank you for your understanding in why I needed to do this, I could not have done it without your love and support.

To my co-adventurers, my sincere thanks your navigation skills, humour and friendship it’s what made this trip what it was.

To Paul J, thank you for joining me on numerous naughty steps and for your skills with a Leatherman, which kept the Donkey talking. And from Wilky (as I’ve had a very small hand in this tome), thankyou Paul, I can honestly say that I could not have done it without you – I owe you one.

To Wilky, thank you for a lesson in determination and downright optimism and not forgetting your wit and humour

To Jimbo, thank you for the loan of the Auto com lead and for guiding me home.

To Ali, thank you for the help with navigation and keeping me fed and finding accommodation with your language skills.

To Brian, thank you for letting me go on your ”Once in a lifetime”

To Steve, thank you on behalf of Brian, Paul, Ali, Jimbo and Wilky for not only thinking about doing your notes but for not giving up doing them for the whole journey (Wilky gave up after the first day)

When is the next once in a lifetime ??????????????????????????????  Brian says, Dont tell anyone but its 2016 so you had better start saving

Total Amount Raised
Since June 2006
we have raised

 

£ 639815

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